Start at the popular Mayflower Gulch Trailhead (10,980 ft.). This is standard west side approach to Drift, Fletcher, Atlantic, Pacific, and Crystal. You can shorten your round trip by 3 miles if you choose to 4wd to the parking area at 11,560 ft. Follow the unimproved dirt road 1.5 miles to the old Boston Mine at 11,560 ft. where there is plenty of parking. Fletcher Mountain and Drift Peak loom directly over you at this point, quite an Iimpressive sight. Follow the fading dirt road to the right as it ascends slightly up Gold Hill. While ascending Gold Hill, you get a perfect visual of Drift’s Northwest Ridge/Villa Ridge.
From 11,700 ft., leave the road and hike southeast into the tiny northwest bowl; Drift’s steep west Face will be directly above you. While hiking into this cool little place, the grass gradually gives way to talus. Locate the miner’s trail, it will escort you through this rocky area and deliver you at the bottom of the snow slope (12,700 ft.). This bowl is a moderate snow slope that persists late into July and is a favorite among Summit County backcountry skiers and boarders.
Leave the comforts of the useful miner’s trail and start your ascent up this moderately steep slope. If the snow has melted out, this slope consists of semi-loose, large talus. Do not hike too far out on to Drift Peak’s west face for the rock on this face is extremely steep and loose, probably dangerous class 3. Once you have crested this slope, you are now on the Villa Ridge standard route. Continue picking your way up the steep blocks of talus, stay directly on the ridge crest if possible. This ridge narrows a bit in a few places, but dropping down and traversing can bypass any difficulties. Villa Ridge continues to sweep to a steeper pitch toward the summit, at some point you will be using your hands and arms for balance and pulling yourself up some of these blocks of talus. The summit appears abruptly. From the summit there are excellent views of Quandary Peaks (14,265 ft.) west ridge. There is also an interesting ridge that runs from Drift Peak to Wheeler Peak (13,690 ft.), looks doable but has to be at least tough class 3 or 4.
For your decent, start picking your way back down Villa Ridge. Instead of dropping back down into the northwest bowl, continue on Villa Ridge as it snakes its way back down to Gold Hill at 12,000 ft. If you’re up to it, continue out on to Gold Hill and enjoy this above tree line, grassy ridge. You get a different vantage of Drift Peak, and Pacific Peak as well. You can continue west on this flower strewn ridge another mile or so. Sooner or later you have to descend down through the trees to get back to the Mayflower Gulch road and back to your vehicle. If you’re of average hiking capabilities, this round trip should take anywhere from 5-7 hrs.
Be prepared for an overnight stay in an emergency.
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